PH monitors fresh movement of Chinese ships in Spratlys
MANILA, Philippines—Movement of Chinese ships has been monitored near two reefs in the Spratly Islands, sparking concerns from Philippine officials that China might be planning to conduct further reclamation projects.
“Were taking a good look as to what’s happening there. We aren’t certain but we know there’s some movements there,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters after President Benigno Aquino disclosed an intelligence report on the developments in the disputed area.
“If it’s clear to us that the status quo there has been changed, then we will take a look at a formal protest. Right now we aren’t sure and we are taking a good look, these are Gavin reef and Calderon reef,” del Rosario said.
He however clarified that he could not yet determine how many ships there are and what their purpose could be.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) previously released a series of aerial photographs showing China’s reclamation project on Mabini reef. Philippines filed a protest against the reclamation.
“It’s concerning because it would be in the same manner as Mabini in terms of violation of the Declaration of Conduct, because you are effectively changing the status quo and you are raising the tensions in the region,” del Rosario said.
China claims the entire South China Sea as part of its territory including part of the Philippines 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Philippines has challenged China’s claim of “indisputable sovereignty” over the entire region by filing an arbitration case before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
China has maintained its stance that it will not participate in the proceedings even when it has been ordered to submit its counter memorial by December 15, 2014.
“If China refuses to participate, I don’t think that’s relevant as far as the outcome is concerned because the case will proceed with or without China and an award will be handed down which hopefully will be final and unappealable,” del Rosario said.
Meanwhile, President Benigno Aquino III said he is hoping for the resolution of the arbitration case filed before the United Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) amid China’s refusal to participate in the proceedings.
“So at the very least, ang makukuha natin diyan if they rule in our favor na tama ‘yung ating mga claims, then magkakaliwanagan: Ano ba talaga ang karapatan…ng bawat isang estado at ano ang mga tungkulin?” he explained.
(So at the very least, we will be able to prove, if they rule in our favor, that our claim are correct. We will be able to clarify the rights and responsibilities of each state.)
However, he said he cannot force China to participate.
“Karapatan nila kung sasama sila o hindi. Inimbita natin sila na pumunta tayo rito para ma-resolve na nga natin na siguradong peaceful way of resolving the dispute,” he said.
Nevertheless, Aquino hopes China will change its mind, especially since it says it is a responsible member of the international community. With a report from Kristine Sabillo
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